Defense technology company Saab Australia expects to take on another 300 staff in the next few years with plans for its $77 million state-of-the-art Sovereign Combat System Collaboration Centre in Adelaide out for tender and construction likely to begin this year.
Managing director Andy Keough said the company was experiencing strong growth on the back of its 10-year enterprise partnering agreement (EPA) to deliver sovereign, high-technology systems to the Royal Australian Navy, signing the final stage of the Federal Government agreement this month.
Staff numbers have doubled at Saab nationally from 350 to 700 since August 2019 as the company also works across other long-term programs including deployable medical facilities and civil security solutions.
“Saab staff are also working on the deployable health capability which provides essential medical facilities for defence or humanitarian needs,” Keough said.
“With over 550 modules, this capability replicates every aspect that you’d see in a modern hospital; but is able to be deployed at short notice by RAAF transport aircraft.”
Saab Australia has 550 staff at its Adelaide headquarters and provides combat management systems for the Royal Australian Navy and platform systems for the Collins Class submarines.
A naval combat management system is the software operating system that integrates a naval ship’s sensors, weapons, data systems and other equipment.
“As a key part of the government’s enterprise approach to shipbuilding, realisation of the EPA will see Saab’s AusCMS equip up to six classes of warships in the surface fleet, along with developing the Australian interface for the Hunter (frigate) and Hobart classes (destroyer),” Keough said following the recent signing.
Exports now make up 6 per cent of the company’s work and Keough said this was likely to “increase significantly”, with the technology company overseeing numerous staff exchanges with Sweden and now investigating similar opportunities in Germany.
Keough said Saab was also diversifying into transferable markets and sectors including cyber and space, and emerging industries including the space sector are contributing to its expansion.
“Overall, there has been significant growth in the defence industry through the commitment by the Federal Government to invest 2 per cent of GDP into defence,” Keough said.
A recruitment drive was now underway with “exceptionally high demand for software engineers” but Saab was also looking for systems, electrical and mechanical engineers, project management professionals and support functions like ICT and cyber security.
Its new facility in Adelaide, supported by a $22.6 million Federal Government Modern Manufacturing Industry grant, will be the nation’s first state-of-the-art Sovereign Combat System Collaboration Centre.
This development is set to increase the size of the current Adelaide facility by 80 per cent over an 18-month construction timeframe.
“The expanded facility at Mawson Lakes will feature new labs, training and collaboration spaces,” Keough said.
Keough is positive about the defence sector in South Australia, saying he moved to Adelaide more than 14 years ago because of its significant defence industry opportunities.
“The major programs, including the build of nuclear-powered submarines and warships and the development of advanced technologies in areas such as space, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cyber and quantum materials will create significant value and opportunity to the local community,” he said.
“The programs being undertaken in South Australia by the defence industry will be critical to Australia’s security in an ever-increasing challenging strategic environment.
“The training ecosystem within South Australia, including the schools, universities, vocational training providers are all recognising the opportunity and pivoting to create the skilled workforce essential to deliver these complex programs.”
Saab also has offices in Rockingham in WA, Canberra, Melbourne, and Brisbane, where its purpose-built facility supports the Deployable Health Capability program for the defence force.
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